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How to Train Your Dragon and book-based movies

April 5, 2010

Manuscript update: 291 words so far on my new book, and I hope to do more this afternoon, between loads of laundry. I wrote my second book in three months, so I’m setting a tentative goal of two months for this one. So, I hope to be done by June 1. I’ll keep you up to date.

How to Train Your Dragon movie sceneMy husband and I went and saw How to Train Your Dragon this weekend, and it’s a great movie. Fun, exciting, sweet, touching, funny, lots of action and piles of goey emotion — it has it all.

I wasn’t surprised to see that it was based on a book — most of the best movies are based on books — and that book is now on my to-read list.

I’m a big believer that when movie studios buy rights to a book, they should follow the story of the book. However, film and print are two different mediums, and some things that work in one won’t work as well in another. But, when a studio changes a book, I think it has a responsibility to be true to the book as much as possible and at the very least, be true to the spirit and action of the book. Some succeed, some don’t.

How to Train Your Dragon bookI haven’t read the book series on which How to Train Your Dragon is based, but judging by the Wikipedia description, the movie is different. BUT, the movie stays true to the spirit of the books, a reluctant hero finding his heroism in a way that’s unconventional from his norm. The difference is, the movie upped the anti, so to speak, made the stakes higher by changing the norm of a society that lives with dragons and trains them (the book) to a society that is threatened by dragons and so must fight them (the movie). The added danger provides more drama, which is more necessary in a movie when, as a viewer, you’re more detached than reading a book.

Also, the books are chapter books, so aimed at a younger audience. The filmmakers raised the age of the main character from 11 in the books to teen in the movie, but that works because of the added danger.

In contrast, the filmmakers  behind the Percy Jackson movie changed the age of the titular character and made other changes that took away from the books, diluted the drama and alienated the fans of the books.

After I watched the Percy Jackson movie, as a big fan of the books, I wondered what author Rick Riordan thought of this very different adaptation. I read in a Publishers Weekly article that although Riordan visited the set while the film was being made, he has decided to not watch the final movie. (Did he see the bad reviews?) He says in the article that he’s grateful for the attention the movie gave to the books, but…

“My own vision of the characters and the setting and the story—I have a very clear idea of the way things are. I don’t want that vision changed by the movie version.”

Seems like a good reason to me. And, having seen the movie, I’d guess that he would be disappointed.

For How to Train a Dragon, however, it’s my guess that author Cressida Cowell would be pleased with the movie version. It’s different, but I think it’s a good representation. It has made me want to read the books, and I’d say that’s always a good thing.

Have you seen it? What did you think?

Write On!

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3 comments

  1. Here via WU, and I ADORED this movie! I actually don’t want to read the book because I agree that in almost all cases, the two entities are separate, and I love the movie too much to want to read a different version of it. Silly, I know, and one of the first times I’ve had this strong of a reaction.

    That said, I’m a reader/writer first and foremost, and *usually* I will try to read a book before I go see a movie. I tend to like the books better, but I enjoy the movies as “companion” pieces, you know?


  2. Thanks for the great review. I so agree that the books and movies don’t always match. My daughter really complained about this with the Percy Jackson movie. I do want to see this one.


  3. I agree, Kristan. It’s such a wonderful movie. But I would like to read the book. In fact, I read the first few pages on Amazon and it is much toned down drama-wise from the movie. And I know what you mean about movies being companion pieces to books. I agree. It’s fun to see the world of the book visually.

    Natalie, yeah, I agree with your daughter on Percy Jackson. I was really disappointed with the movie. I love those books, but the movie wasn’t good. Oh well. At least we have the books.



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